By Lavern Nissley
A number of years ago Ronda and I were in a mentoring session with a couple married for 20 years. They were "prickly" - a term we've come to use for very stressed couples. The puzzle was that they had taken all kinds of marriage classes, attended retreats and read the latest books on marriage. But it wasn't evident at all!
In one session they said something profound. "We know what our problem is. It's actually 3 things." When they said what the 3 things were, we both thought, "Yep! You certainly do seem to have these 3."
The "Big 3" things that the couple identified as creating their problems were selfishness, stubbornness and pride.
Profound! Even deeply stressed people can have flashes of helpful insights!
Selfishness has people looking out primarily for their own interests. What do I want? What's best for me? While those are valid and important questions, it is a principle in healthy relationships to look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The opposite of selfishness is Sacrifice. Where it's not just about me and my needs, but maybe even giving up for the sake of helping the other person.
Stubbornness indicates a high reluctance of openness to change, especially where personal change is needed. Don't ask me to make changes. I don't need to change. You can just see that person with arms folded securely in front of him or her as if to say, "Don't even try to change my mind."
The opposite of stubbornness is Openness. Where there is a softness and tenderness of heart to consider value in what the other person is saying.
Pride is self exalting, looking down one's nose at others. It is ugly and nauseating, not good at all for relationships.
The opposite of pride is Humility. Where I realize I don't have all the answers or have it all together. Or that I'm somehow better than others.
The couple that shared this profound self-insight unfortunately never got to the opposites of sacrifice, openness and humility. Instead, in spite of all they had attended, read and experienced, they stayed stuck. Not an attractive sight at all.
But it's been a good reminder for us to resist the "Big 3" in all of our relationships (the left end of the above 3 arrows). How much better things go when we strive for sacrifice, openness and humility!
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.